Archive for March, 2013

Ruminations on Gatsby

I just ran across this quote from the Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and thought it was especially appropriate during this holiday season:

“Let us show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead”


Time to fess up. I’m a huge fan of Charlie Brown. So many memorable moments captured on the little screen. For an animated cartoon, Peanuts speaks volumes about the way to find your way in the world.

I’ll always remember the time Charlie Brown went Trick-or-Treating, and his famous complaint, “All I got was a rock.” This lesson can be applied across the board, the whole adage when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

I’m terminally single, it seems, but I make plenty of lemonade. My philosophy is: “I’m looking for someone who laughs more than he complains.”

But I digress.

Easter. The day when a particular, world-changing dead man named Jesus Christ rose, in preparation for his ascendency and the salvation of the world entire. Popular opinion has it that Jesus was the only perfect man, the only man without earthly sin, yet I’ve wondered if this could possibly be true, in particular in light of his final words, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Turns out, apparently, that doubting God or the presence of God isn’t in itself a sin. Think of the trials and tribulations of Job.

Easter, then, is a way to celebrate God’s promise that He will always be there for us.

Happy Easter, everyone, and as Tiny Tim proclaimed, “God Bless Us, Everyone.”

Two favorite quotes of Oscar Wilde:

“Either this wallpaper goes or I do.”

“It’s better to be talked about than not to be talked about.”

Remember this is by the playwright of “The Importance of Being Ernest.”

Take Off The Gloves

In 2008, California, a supposedly progressive state, passed a bill titled, Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage statewide. Now that very law, a seemingly discriminatory law, is before the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2008, the ban passed with 52 percent of the public vote, but the pendulum has swung, and attitudes in California have seemingly shifted radically. As it stands right now, nine states recognize either civil unions or gay marriage whereas 30 states have statewide constitutional bans disallowing that basic civil right.

Now, as I write this, the legality of Proposition 8 is being challenged in the highest court in the land. President Barack Obama’s team took an unprecedented step in filing a brief with the court asking the Supreme Court to consider the merits of marital equality for all.

I’m Catholic, and I certainly understand the reticence of the more conservative members of society to embrace Marriage Equality, and I’ve coached other Catholic parishioners and friends to pray about whether to support gay marriage. I’ve told my Catholic friends that it’s indeed a discernment process. For those who’ve not been paying much attention to the movement within the Catholic faith, the new pope, Francis I, though stopping short of supporting Marriage Equality, made a radical reversal in the Church’s stance on contraception by issuing an edict stating that contraception is acceptable to stop the spread of disease. For all those Catholics who’ve practiced safe sex outside of the sanctity of marriage, this is an enormous leap forward. It virtually allows for the use of contraception for individuals who aren’t bonded by the legal contract of marriage.

Back when Bill Clinton was president of the United States, Congress and the Senate in 1996 passed the Defense of Marriage Act, more commonly known as DOMA. This law clearly defined marriage as a contract between a man and a woman, excluding the right of gay men and lesbians to marry. This law had the effect of denying Social Security survivor benefits and federal tax deductions to gays.

In Illinois right now, there’s a bill before Congress, called, The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act that has already been passed by the Illinois Senate. I encourage supporters of gay marriage in the Chicagoland area or throughout Illinois to contact their Congressional state representatives by email or online petition to indicate support for this bill as this new bill is about to be voted on in the Illinois legislature.

Like the Virginia Slim’s cigarette commercial, “We’ve come a long way baby!”

A Good Man Named Harold

After the first Mayor Daley, and before the accendancy of the second Daley, Richard M., there was in-fighting in Chicago, and after the Bilandiac fiasco with the snow storm that never got cleared, there was room for change, and that change came in the form of a black man named Harold Washington. Jane Byrne and Richard M. Daley were competing for Chicago’s votes, and there was at last the opportunity for something new. Ironically since Lincoln freed the slaves, it seemed especially appropriate that a black man would rule the once oh so corrupt political machine politics Chicago is famous for. Remember this is also the state that elected our very first Black president. Like the Virginia Slims commercial proudly states, “We’ve come a long way baby. . .”

And now we have Jewish mayor Ramh Emmanuel. Can you imagine?

Two images/moments from Schindler’s List: the movie is in black and white with one exception–why do you think that might be?

A simple dusk, blood red coat moving through the crowd, then the coat flung onto an anonymous ash heap. The only bit of color in the stark, yet stirring film that is “Schindler’s List,” originally titled, I believe, “Schindler’s Ark.”

Moment number two: a child jeers at a man passing by, as he’s shuttled along like cattle to some horrible death–the man proceeds with calm serenity in his heart.

The child yells out, “JEW!” His mouth twisted in hatred at the unknown, the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable. How easy for that child to tag along with the angry crowd rather than calm his inner anger at that which he doesn’t understand. Taking an innocuous word, and filling it with venom. How long before the Jewish people were again able to call themselves, JEWS, without cringing in shame? People politely, in politically correct terms, referring to “the Jewish people, the Jewish experience,” but as the saying goes, “Until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes. . .”

How then to avoid slamming hate back in the face of hate, how to respond with serenity, even with empathy, but without bowing our heads in shame. We have all been shamed enough, all of us, all too long–Jews, Christians, Muslims, Agnostics, Buddhists, Taoists. . .The list goes on ad infinitum. Will we live in shame and fear, or will we “rise to the occasion,” rise to that which is required of us. As children of God, we do not grovel.

The Ultimate Gambit

So many permutations when it comes to love, when it comes to what love means to each of us.  There’s the love we have for one another, familial love, the lusting love of passion and energy, and I’ve even heard the word love bantered about in the context of drugs.  Kind of like the “Got Milk” slogan–in this case, it’s “Got Love?”  You give good love. . .I could go on and on.  It’s like the Whitney Houston song, “I Will Always Love You,” truly an anthem for lost souls everywhere.

Truly, though, isn’t the search for real love what it’s all about?  

Love as the ultimate gambit.

I was reading an article in the February 2013 issue of Dog Fancy magazine, asking whether dogs are even capable of love?  The article starts by stating the obvious, “We love our dogs.  There’s no question of that.”  But then it asks whether dogs love humans in return?  One theory put forward is that dogs love us because we provide for them, as a sheer survival mechanism.  I say, those experts just haven’t met the right dog yet.

There are two other really great books on the topic, Dogs Never Lie About Love, by Jeffrey Moussaiff Masson, and The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.  Thomas talks about the pack nature of her dogs, and their natural pecking order–it’s by no means a dull read, though–it’s a veritable treasure trove of anecdotes about how oh so many times dogs have gone beyond the call of duty, and stood up for their human counterparts.  There are dogs who have been known to lay down their lives for their owners–think army.

Dogs may not feel emotions in the exact same way human beings do, but it’s clear that a dog certainly feels crestfallen and slides into a momentary deep depression the moment you say, NO, we are not going for a walk.  But the moment you put those shoes on and reach for a leash, that animal will perk up in a hurry.  Early in the preface, Masson writes, “Even as a young boy I knew that hardly any creature could express joy so vividly as a dog.”  I think in the end our pets simply want us to care about them in the same way they take care of themselves.  Then, you earn the role of leader, provider, and even, dare I say it, companion, and general protector of your overall mental and emotional well-being.  Freud said quite succinctly, “Dogs love their friends, and bite their enemies.” 


From the movie “The Vow:”

“These moments of impact define who we are.”

Charles Bukowski Envy

Charles Bukowski envy is worse than penis envy.  The man drank too much, let’s be honest, he was a drunk, a raging alcoholic.  Doctors told him, many years before he actually died, that if he took another drink, he would die.  I’ve heard this claim many times from AAers.  “If I drink again I’ll die.”  Well he didn’t die; he fashioned himself, somehow, into a functional alcoholic.  He sent out scores of poems, many times without keeping a carbon copy for himself, and he eventually began to attract notice.  His first story was published in the aptly titled, Story magazine, and it’s called, “Aftermath of a Rejection Slip,” and can be found online.

I envy him because he had guts.  He forged his own way in the world.  When he wanted to see the country, he did, taking Greyhound buses, living in flophouses, and for a long while subsisted on a nickel candy bar called, ironically enough, Payday (candy bars were a nickel back then–in the not-so-distant past).

 He smoked non-stop, worked a dead end job for years at the post office, and was told, many years before he actually died at 74, that he didn’t have much time left.

He forged ahead anyway.

He didn’t make time for relationships, but somehow, women turned up and inserted themselves into his life.  In particular, a wealthy Texan poetry magazine editor named Barbara Frye published him, and they started a correspondence.  They fell in love long distance, and married just as soon as they actually met.  The marriage lasted two and a half years.

But in spite of all his trials and tribulations, Charles Bukowski forged ahead.  I need to find some kind of God, only for me my God cannot be alcohol, I need some kind of God to direct me so that I can write honestly instead of aiming to write lyrically.  I’m still trying to find my voice.

God grant me patience, but give it to me now. 

oh yes

there are worse things than
being alone
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it’s too late
and there’s nothing worse
than too late

by Charles Bukowski